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LATEST UPDATES: Racial Justice | Tracking COVID-19 (coronavirus)

County Stepping Up Enforcement After Hitting COVID-19 Trigger, San Diego Zoo Prepares To Reopen, What Juneteenth Means At This Moment

Cover image for podcast episode

PHOTO BY ALEXANDER NGUYEN

Above: A man walking at the pond in Balboa Park on June 14, 2020, the first weekend Balboa Park reopened following the coronavirus closure.

The county hit a trigger with eight outbreaks in seven days, putting a set back on the San Diego’s reopening plan. Plus, the San Diego Zoo begins welcoming the public this weekend. It’s an early sign that the region's slumbering tourist economy is starting to wake up. And, organizers of a Juneteenth celebration in San Diego discuss what this holiday means to them in the wake of widespread protests against racism.

Speaker 1: 00:00 The latest on community outbreaks of COVID-19 are a warning to stay vigilant and Juneteenth celebrations of the end of slavery have added significance. I'm Alison st. John, this is KPBS midday edition.

Speaker 1: 00:23 Today is Friday, June 19th. As we end another week of life with COVID-19 San Diego County is keeping a close eye on how reopening businesses is affecting the spread of the virus. Some of the warning indicators already call for a slowdown of plans to reopen here were the latest on what we know so far is KPBS reporter Matt Hoffman. Thanks for joining us, Matt Alison. So the number of community outbreaks, it was one of the 13 things that the County is monitoring, and it's reached a trigger point that, uh, is going to pause reopening, tell us what is a community outbreak and how does it acts as a trigger?

Speaker 2: 01:00 Yeah. So when we're talking about community outbreaks, Alison we're talking about, you know, outbreaks that things like restaurants or things like businesses. This could be workplaces from, you know, the auto shop to, you know, even a business like KPBS. Um, and basically a community outbreak is at least three cases. Now we've heard from health officials in terms of things like restaurants that it's not outbreaks happening with people who are eating at the restaurants it's with the back end sort of kitchen staff. So we haven't seen any large outbreaks and they say majority of these community outbreaks are, you know, four to five people, although they have seen some larger ones, but these ones we're talking about here, four to five cases we're seeing in these outbreaks.

Speaker 1: 01:33 And how could it pause the reopening process at this point?

Speaker 2: 01:36 Well, yeah, so basically how it acts as a trigger is that they're, you know, when the, when they look at community outbreaks, it could be an indicator of what's to come in terms of like, we had these community outbreaks. Now we're seeing some cases, but this could lead to a spike in hospitalizations. And that's why health officials say this is serious. Cause things like hospitalizations, things like ICU capacity, those are also triggers too. And I mean, our ICU capacity right now is at 32% of scale up. Now, when we originally entered this whole, um, attestation plan to move forward with reopening, um, you know, the trigger was that that ICU capacity was not able to scale up to 30% that we would have to, that that would be a trigger we would roll backwards. Now that's been changed to 20%. So as of right now, we're in the clear for ICU capacity, but health officials sort of have, um, the freedom to retool these triggers and change them as we move forward to the reopening, they can make the thresholds larger in terms of community outbreaks in terms of ICU capacity in terms of hospital capacity.

Speaker 2: 02:30 And dr. Ruins says, while she's comfortable with these triggers now that, uh, they are subject to change,

Speaker 1: 02:35 Yes, County supervisor, Nathan Fletcher said he was concerned that the outbreaks could lead to an increase in hospitalizations. Here's what he said. We take this with an understanding that it could be an indication that we could be heading in a direction that is not positive. So what are some of the slowdowns? What are some of the businesses that may not be reopening as a, of this?

Speaker 2: 02:59 Right. So, you know, today, Friday, you know, we were scheduled to continue with our reopening and we are continuing with these scheduled reopening. So that today that's like things like tattoo shops, nail salons, massage therapy, businesses, but in terms of some of the businesses that are going to be on hold, at least for now, and I'll keep in mind, health officials said that some of these outbreaks would drop off their seven day map. Now that doesn't necessarily mean that they're not still active, but it drops off their seven day map for like concern. You know, they're, they're not just looking at a day snapshot, they're looking at a week snapshot. Um, but some of these businesses, at least as of right now that are on hold. So like if today the state said, you know, nightclubs and concert venues can reopen on Monday, the County would not adopt that. So things that are waiting, things like nightclubs, concert venues, you know, live audience sports. So here in San Diego, you know, Petco park, we have the Padres up North in Del Mar you know, horse racing season is just around the corner. You know, there's not going to be any fans in there. It sounds like. So those are some of the things that we're waiting in terms of reopening.

Speaker 1: 03:52 So things could change over the weekend.

Speaker 2: 03:55 Oh, things can definitely change over the weekend. I mean, things could change as, as of today. I mean, we could have no outbreaks today. And then we fall back in that safe zone in terms of community outbreaks, or we, you know, as of yesterday we could have more community outbreaks today and we're still stuck in this stage two. And, and, you know, keep in mind, the doctor will move in the County public health officer. She kind of, um, can decide where, where she wants to go. Well, you know what pauses she wants to put on? You know, you know, we could've walked even more backwards in terms of restrictions, but as of right now, um, you know, sort of just putting a pause on things, reminding people, you know, when you're going out there, wash your hands, you know, face coverings are so, so important.

Speaker 2: 04:29 They say, you know, look, a lot of these outbreaks are happening because people they're not wearing face coverings. And you know, they're out at things like social clubs and they're there, they're interacting with people within six feet and they're not wearing face coverings. And they're saying, look, you have to wear face coverings. The more face coverings you wear, the more freedom we have, the more people's social distance, the more we can just get through this thing. So they're really asking for people's help. And they want to remind people that the restrictions are in place so that people can go out there and re enjoy the activities that they do.

Speaker 1: 04:54 The County has suggested that it might step up enforcements of the public health orders. Do we know exactly what they mean by that?

Speaker 2: 05:02 No, we don't. Um, super resonates and Fletcher mentioned that yesterday. And so basically my question was, what trends are you seeing with businesses if you're going to be stepping up targeted enforcement and sort of what they were saying in terms of targeted enforcement, they were talking about going after bad actors. Like they say, they're in terms of like trends, they're seeing, you know, they're not, you know, you know, X business, you know, this business isn't social distancing or this business isn't following the mass mandate. Um, and it's worth noting too, that all the outbreaks they're saying they're not connected and they're all geographically spread out. So we're not seeing any connections with the outbreaks here.

Speaker 1: 05:31 So, so Matt reminders, uh, there are a number of statistics that are being watched here. Where are we at right now in terms of confirmed cases and deaths in the County?

Speaker 2: 05:43 Well, you know, we, we just reached the 10,000 milestone with cases and we had a new daily high with 238 new cases of COVID-19 reported yesterday. Now, keep in mind, testing is going up. And we're really looking at those percentage of positive cases. That's one of the indicators that the County is looking at, you know, statewide about four and a half percent here in our County. He goes anywhere from three and a half to 4%. I'm also in a digital, additional desk reporter yesterday. So right now we're at 331 deaths countywide due to COVID-19.

Speaker 1: 06:09 And another significant milestone was that the governor yesterday made face coverings mandatory in the state of California, although that doesn't change things much in San Diego County, right?

Speaker 2: 06:19 Yeah. Since may one, we've had a mandate to wear face coverings, basically when, when you can't keep social distance from somebody. So, you know, when you're out exercising, you don't have to wear it. Um, as long as you're not around people, but, uh, yeah, the state order, you know, basically, you know, codifying more of this and putting more restrictions for inside, you know, basically saying, look, whenever you're inside, whenever you're waiting in line to go into a business, you must wear that face covering, especially if you're within six feet of somebody, you must wear that face covering. So just new language updating that. Now it's a statewide order.

Speaker 1: 06:46 We've been speaking with Matt Hoffman, KPBS news reporter. Thanks Matt. Thanks. Alison, The San Diego zoo begins welcoming the public this weekend as the facility ends, the longest closure in its 103 year history, KPBS reporter, Eric Anderson says it's an early sign that the region slumbering tourist economy is starting to wake up from its coronavirus coma.

Speaker 3: 07:12 Visitors will get a taste of the zoo's new normal before they even walk through the front gate.

Speaker 4: 07:17 There's one that will bring people around.

Speaker 3: 07:21 Kohler is the San Diego zoo's deputy director. She's standing in the parking lot in front of a main gate and she points to the polls, ropes and Gates that will funnel visitors at safe distances until they get inside. Once inside visitors get a combination of the familiar, like the flock of pink flamingos waiting in shallow water, and they get a heavy dose of the new normal. That's mostly in the form of green and white signs that seem to be everywhere, even on the ground, all the mind visitors to maintain social distance and be safe,

Speaker 4: 07:58 Did everything to make sure that we are providing a very safe and very comfortable environment for our guests.

Speaker 3: 08:04 Safety includes keeping capacity at 50% as the facility reopening is rolled out. It also means a lot of plexiglass barriers at cash registers and any place there's interaction between visitors and staff.

Speaker 4: 08:18 We've limited capacity inside our, our gift stores and our dining. Um, many of those are one way in one way out. You'll see a lot of staff on grounds you again, remind people social distancing at the elevators, making sure there's only one family group at a time in there. Our tours are only one family group. So we've really taking, um, a really measured and strategic approach to make sure that we're looking at all our operations to make sure that they are as safe as possible for our guests and our team members.

Speaker 3: 08:44 Kohler knows that building confidence is important for building crowds and building crowds is key to helping revive the local tourism economy. The economic employed 13% of San Diego's workforce before COVID-19 shut things down.

Speaker 5: 09:01 It takes time to be able to reengineer and to reopen, to call employees back and to do training.

Speaker 3: 09:08 Carrie cabbage is the San Diego tourism authorities, chief operating officer.

Speaker 5: 09:12 It's great to see more coming online. So it's the new normal, if you will, for where we are as a community. And obviously we're excited to see that more and more businesses are starting to reopen because we've had so many workers who have been out of work through this crisis.

Speaker 3: 09:31 She's encouraged. The zoo is reopening along with other local attractions, parks, museums, and the regions. 70 miles of beaches are key lures for San Diego's third largest economic sector. After the military and manufacturing cap, it says tourism is a cornerstone of a local economy.

Speaker 5: 09:51 Many economists will tell you that this pandemic has had nine times the economic fallout of nine 11. It'll take us time to recover as a community. It'll take us time to recover. As a business sector,

Speaker 6: 10:05 People have to have confidence.

Speaker 3: 10:07 Alan gin is an economist at the university of San Diego

Speaker 6: 10:10 Confidence or travel confidence then to go out and eat in restaurants, maybe in the meat meat, [inaudible] smaller groups, uh, with, with social distancing, uh, until that happens, uh, you know, the restaurants can open the, the, the amusement parks can open. The hotels can, can, can reopen, uh, but they're not going to get a lot of customers.

Speaker 3: 10:32 Jen says the tourism sector has suffered a dramatic economic shock and it'll take a long time to rebuild. He says, there's also a chance COVID-19 infection rates could climb, forcing more social limits in the fall.

Speaker 6: 10:46 I'm a little bit worried about a potential, a spike, and in cases as people go out, uh, uh, some are adhering to the recommendations, but I see a lot of people then, you know, avoiding the social distancing, avoiding wearing masks. I think things along those lines, and I'm worried that, that, uh, we'll have a second outbreak, which will for the derail, the economy

Speaker 3: 11:11 Avoiding that outcome will require diligence and persistence, the same kind of diligence and persistence. The tourism sector will need to rebuild the public's trust. Eric Anderson, KPBS news,

Speaker 1: 11:26 The San Diego zoo reopens tomorrow morning. Today, June 19th is the date to celebrate freedom from slavery. It marks the day in 1865, when news reached the last remaining and slaved people in Texas, that slavery had been abolished this year, the meeting of Juneteenth takes on additional significance as struggle as a nation with the residues of racial injustice and police brutality here in San Diego, the Cooper family foundation has been holding a community celebration of Juneteenth for the last 50 years. Joining us are two members of the Cooper family, Marla Lynn Cooper, and her niece, Malia Monique Jones.

Speaker 5: 12:13 Oh, I'm happy to be here. Thanks for asking me.

Speaker 1: 12:15 Hi. So Marla, your parents are the founders of San Diego's, June teeth, community celebration. Tell us a bit about how it got started and how it's grown.

Speaker 5: 12:24 Basically, my father was from Redbird, Oklahoma. That's where he was from. It was all black town and they always celebrated Juneteenth. And then when he came to San Diego and he married my mother Thelma Cooper in 1953, he was telling her about the celebration. And while they were celebrating July 4th, he told my mother that that was not our holiday because in fact, we were still slaves when the 4th of July happened in 1776. So they started celebrating Juneteenth and then they had children. We started at celebrating Juneteenth as a family and then at a park at Southwest park. And so what started off very small ended up becoming pretty large. And then my, um, he just would invite the community to participate. Um, he had friends and family and extended family participate and donate food. And we had entertainment and always education about the meaning of Juneteenth and what it meant to us as a people.

Speaker 1: 13:29 So Marla talk about the meaning, what it means for you.

Speaker 5: 13:33 What it means to me is, um, that we're resilient race of people. So in spite of our painful journey, and it has definitely been painful in spite of discrimination, that still is evident and has manifested itself today in the worst way, we're still a resilient race of people are we would not be here. Um, in spite of lynchings and killings, um, we're still here. We're still standing. But today, when I look at the protest, there are no words that can express how I feel. It's hard. And it's hard to express when you live in this skin, what you feel when you see the protest and when you see other races and they're finally coming with us, you'd be like, Oh my God, thank God

Speaker 1: 14:17 Malia. I understand you're going to be addressing the gathering. It's going to be a smaller gathering than usual, I believe because you have to make it a virtual event apart from your own family. But what will you be talking about in terms of the meaning of Juneteenth to you this year?

Speaker 7: 14:33 I will be talking about the systemic and institutionalized oppression that black people face to this day and how police brutality is only one issue that black people face systemically because there's all other issues. And I'll also be talking about how my aunt, how proud we should be, about how far we have come, but we still have so much more that we need to do. And our generation now is the demand and change that we need to have that change for. So black Americans could walk the streets of America, safe and proud and have basic human rights that everybody else is equal to.

Speaker 1: 15:12 How many of your generation do you think are aware of Juneteenth and actually observe it?

Speaker 7: 15:17 I believe now it's now that it has become more publicized. I believe everyone is aware now of Juneteenth and how significant is to black people. And, and it's fine that like, if they just find out that it's completely fine, because now they know, and they can tell their friends, their family, their friends about Juneteenth. The thing is, and the main thing is to keep the conversation, going to keep Arjun teeth alive and keep the meaning of June to the life all around the world. So they know what Juneteenth is and what our independence day is.

Speaker 1: 15:51 Marla, you know, how important is it that, that people of all races and backgrounds get to know this part of history? You know what I mean? Is it really an important part of tackling this racism that we're really confronting now?

Speaker 5: 16:04 Well, I think it's very important. So let me just speak that police brutality is not new police killing black men is not new, but for whatever, the reason this time, this time watching George Floyd, watching the police officer, put his neck and watch this man die on video and call out to his mother. Every culture has had compassion. And I believe that is the reason that now I'm amazed that there's Juneteenth on the television. It's the reason why Twitter and bank of America is closing early today. And that's the reason I believe that we're having the conversation and because all the cultures came together with us. So when you see the protesting, you're just like amazed, like, okay. And for me, I'm like, thank you, God, it's time. It is time

Speaker 1: 17:01 Pastor Malia. I'd like to ask you, how would you like to see Americans as a whole celebrate this holiday

Speaker 7: 17:07 Americans as a whole? I feel to celebrate this holiday. I as continued to educate yourself, not only on Juneteenth, but the history of black people and the racism that we still face in today's society and how the changes that they can make contribute to how black people and any minorities are facing this world. So if you continue that it allows for change to happen because it takes all of us, not just the black community, not as it takes everybody to contribute and learn and educate, to get where we need to be for the future.

Speaker 1: 17:43 So, Marla, what are your plans for this year celebration tomorrow

Speaker 5: 17:46 As always, it will be the same. We have a drum call, which is, um, goes right with our tradition. We'll have prayer, we'll have spoken word what we're going to talk about, our history, our culture, our heritage, and then we're going to have, um, gospel music. That's also a part of our history. And then of course, we're going to have a, we're going to talk about George Floyd and the issues and the, um, senseless killings and lynchings. And then we're going to fellowship together with dinner and it'd be an emotional day, but it'd be a wonderful day.

Speaker 1: 18:22 We've been speaking with Malia, Monique Jones. Thank you so much. Malia and Marlin Lynn Cooper of the Cooper family that founded the Juneteenth celebration here in San Diego. Thank you, Marla.

Speaker 5: 18:34 Oh, thank you for having me. I'm I am honored.

Speaker 1: 18:38 The Cooper family foundation is hosting a virtual Juneteenth celebration from two to five o'clock tomorrow on Facebook live and zoom.

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KPBS Midday Edition

KPBS Midday Edition is a daily talk show hosted by Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon, keeping San Diegans in the know on everything from politics to the arts.